FLASH DANCE OF CLASS WARFARE HEADLINES

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You know how it is (if you’re a distracted political junkie like me): you catch snippets.  A CNN headline while you’re whipping up rice for your toddler or an NPR utterance while you’re merging into the morass of shitty Seattle drivers on Mercer.  Or a more sustained report of outrageous stuff if you’re commuting and listening to Democracy Now!  These things have come to me this way, in snippets:

A billionaire, Tom Perkins, in an op-ed to the WSJ, clearly and shamelessly likens the treatment of the wealthy in America (by the masses and the media) to the treatment of Jews by the Nazis.

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A sixteen-year-old Texan teen, Ethan Couch, kills four people drinking and driving and avoids any jail time whatsoever.  The judge insists that the defense psychologist’s “affluenza” argument (meaning the kid always got what he wanted and never faced consequences, so, hey, how could he be held accountable?) had no bearing on her decision.

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Robert H. Richards IV, a DuPont heir, pleads guilty to raping his 3 year-old daughter, avoids any jail time whatsoever, and now is coming clean about the likelihood of having raped his 19 month old son.

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As a person who grew up with divorced parents—a clever, entrepreneurial father who was nonetheless always living off loans and beyond his means and struggling, and a very wealthy but militantly progressive mother who felt that my privilege meant I should attend inner city schools and get a job at 14—I have some feelings here.

In the past I have considered writing a response to Mr. Perkins, or perhaps an open letter to him.  Because here’s the wildest aspect of it: if you dig deep enough, look hard enough, presume enough good intention and sound intellect in Mr. Perkins, you can cobble together a point—or at least I can: OWS, the 99% and the “progressive moment” (whatever the F that means nowadays) would do well to not demonize the 1%.  They would do far better to identify those in the 1% that are allies and embrace them and to cultivate others who might become allies did they not feel, to some extent, demonized for their wealth.  Don’t like rich people?  Really?  Even if we assume that by some twisty-turny radical logic that’s somehow not bigotry, my mother has done as much for sincerely progressive causes (think the Sandinista Revolution) as any of her working class peers and more than many.  The world needs more rich people like my mother. I won’t bother to address the paranoid and self-righteous absurdity of Mr. Perkins’ intimations that the 1% might be slaughtered by the hordes.  I’m just trying to lend him a hand toward a valid point. Perhaps that is misguided.

More to the point, however, Mr. Perkins and others in the 1% should profoundly consider the effects of high-profile 24 hour news cycle cases like those of Ethan Couch and Robert H. Richards IV.  Because therein lies the most stark correction to their fears: the “progressive movement” or OWS or “the 99%,” inasmuch as they’re “demonizing” the wealthy, aren’t doing so necessarily out of intolerant hatred of “success.”  Or even, necessarily, a sizzling critique of the capitalist system that creates people like Mr. Perkins.  They may be doing so out of moral outrage that we live in a system that not only facilitates the vast accumulation of wealth for those that already have it, but then shamelessly allows them protection for crimes no less than murder and child rape while people who toil to put inadequate food on their families’ tables go to jail for possessing a joint.

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Comments

  1. thanks for a point of clear sanity in the web of … less than that 🙂 how does DIE YUPPIE SCUM fit into this? cute political joke or vile bigotry?

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